Have you ever seen a fish that made you say “Yikes!”? If not, then buckle up for the ride! We’re about to dive into the depths of our oceans and explore some of the ugliest fish in the world. While beauty is in the eye of the beholder, these creatures are truly an acquired taste.
Whether it be their bizarre body shapes, grotesque features or strange coloring; these sea dwellers have more than earned their place at being crowned as some of nature’s least attractive inhabitants. So let’s take a look at what makes them so ugly!
Blobfish – (Psychrolutes marcidus)
The Blobfish has long been considered one of the ugliest fish in the world, and for good reason. With its slimy skin, gaping mouth, and a gelatinous body that can look like a blob, it’s no wonder this deep-sea dweller is often referred to as “the world’s ugliest fish”. It is found in the deep waters off the coasts of Australia and New Zealand, living at depths of between 2000 and 3,900 feet (600-1190 meters).
Due to the enormous pressures at these depths, the blobfish have a very gelatinous mass, with a density that is only slightly less than water. It is a usually smaller than 30 cm, and is a slow-moving predator that feeds on small ocean creatures such as crabs, worms, and other sea life. Its unique body shape helps it to move with ease through the water.
Atlantic Wolffish – (Anarhichas lupus)
The Atlantic Wolffish, also known as the Atlantic Catfish or Devil Fish, is an ocean-dwelling creature that can be found in the deep waters of the North Atlantic Ocean. It has a unique and peculiar appearance which can easily be described as one of the ugliest fish in the world.
The Atlantic Wolffish has a long, eel-like body that is greyish-brown in color with white patches and spots. Its head is large and flat with two small eyes positioned on either side of its broad snout. It also has two sets of very sharp teeth – one set near the front of its jaw used to munch on prey such as crabs and clams, and another set located further back that is used for grinding. This fish can grow up to 3 feet in length and weigh over 15 pounds!
They are known to eat large hermit crabs, sea clams, cockles, large whelks, sea urchins, and green crabs, and starfish. They do not eat any other type of fish.
Sloane’s Viperfish – (Chauliodus sloani)
The Sloane’s Viperfish is widely regarded as one of the ugliest fish in the world, and for good reason. It is a type of dragonfish, easily recognizable due to its large, protruding eyes and distinctive jaw with very large, sharp teeth. It has massively oversized teeth which look like a closed cage when teeth are clenched shut.
These fish can be found in tropical and temperate waters around the world, from the Atlantic to the Indian and Pacific Oceans. They are deep sea dwellers, and like many that swim in the extreme depths, It possesses a luminescent organ named photophores, which is used to draw in prey.
Stonefish – (Genus – Synanceia)
These marine creatures are often found lurking around coral reefs in tropical and subtropical waters, mostly around the coast of Australia and in the Malay Archipelago. They have an incredibly unique physical appearance and its oval-shaped body, combined with its ability to remain motionless while camouflaged in the ocean, makes it incredibly difficult to spot.
The Stonefish has a face only a mother could love – and even then we’re sure she still may not be too pleased. Its physical appearance is not the only thing that makes it so ugly, however. It also has venomous spines located along its back which are used for protection and self-defense. The venom can cause extreme pain, nausea, vomiting, convulsions and paralysis in humans – making it one of the most dangerous fish in the world.
The Pufferfish are a type of fish that can be found in warm and temperate waters all around the world. Puffers are some of the most recognizable types of fish, characterized by their unique shape and ability to inflate themselves like a balloon when threatened.
Of the Tetraodontidae family of fish, there are 193 species across 28 genera, so there are many different types of puffer fish.
The puffers impressive physical appearance and defensive capabilities make it an interesting creature to observe, however its odd shape and bloated face make it one of the ugliest families of fish in the world. Its eyes are particularly small for its body size and its mouth looks like a rictus grin.
Not all Pufferfish might be considered dangerous but they are known to possess a neurotoxin called tetrodotoxin which can paralyze a person in seconds. It contains enough toxin to kill a human if it is ingested, so extreme caution needs to be taken when handling this particular species of fish.
Sea Pig (Scotoplanes)
Scotoplanes are a type of ‘sea cucumber‘ of the family Elpidiidae. They are a deep-sea fish that is commonly known as the “Sea Pig“. These fish live in depths of up to two kilometers and are found at the bottom of deep oceans. They are given the name Sea Pig because of their plump appearance and legs.
They generally grow to between 4 to 6 inches in length and have bilaterally symmetrical bodies. One of their most notable features is their six, enlarged tube-like feet. They also have dorsal papillae, and buccal tentacles. Their skin also contains a toxin called holothurin which acts as their main defence as as it is poisonous to other creatures
Hairy Frogfish – (Antennarius Striatus)
The Hairy Frogfish (Antennarius Striatus) is a really peculiar fish to behold. It has an elongated, lumpy and irregular body shape with a large head and eyes. Its bizarrely bumpy skin is covered in tiny, coarse bristles that are often bright yellow or red in color. These bristles are actually spines, similar in texture and appearance to hair.
The Hairy Frogfish is found in warm, temperate and tropical waters all over the world, from the Caribbean Sea to the Indian Ocean. Curiously enough, hairy frogfish don’t swim. They use their wide fins instead, to walk along the seafloor looking for prey to ambush. They usually grow to between 4 to 9 inches long and up to around an ounce in weight.
Giant Grenadier/Rattail – (albatrossia pectoralis)
The Giant Grenadier (Albatrossia pectoralis) is a species of deep-sea fish that belongs to the family Macrouridae. It is an ugly beast, even by the standards of deep-sea dwellers.
As its name suggests, it is a giant, growing up to 190-210 cm (over 6 feet) in length and weighing up to 40 kg (88 lbs). It has a long and slender body with large scales, mouth and eyes, and two barbels on the chin. Its body is mottled brownish grey in color, with faded yellowish stripes and darker patches.
The Giant Grenadier’s ugliness stems from its peculiar features, which make it look more like an eel than a fish. Its long body is tapered at the end with a ‘rat-like’ tail. In their waters, they are known to be apex predators.
Frilled Shark – (Chlamydoselachus anguineus)
The Frilled Shark (Chlamydoselachus anguineus), also known as the Lizard Shark, is an incredibly unique and ugly deep-sea species of shark. It is one of the oldest living sharks in the world, with fossil records dating back to 80 million years ago, making it a living fossil.
It has an eel-like body, with small pelvic and anal fins, and a dorsal fin that runs down its back. It is dark brown in colour and covered with frilled gills, hence its name. Its eyes are large, giving it a creepy appearance.
The head of the frilled shark is broad and flat, with a short, rounded snout. But it’s most eye catching feature, is its jaw which contains up to 300 teeth! These ‘needle-like’, trident shaped teeth, are split across many rows – between 19-28 on the upper jaw, and 21-29 rows on the lower jaw. These teeth are utterly terrifying and allow for the frilled shark to consume prey much larger than themselves.
Anglerfish are a particularly ugly order of fish. There are many species across many families, but those of the Melanocetidae family, and the Linophrynidae family are particularly ugly. The Humpback Anglerfish (Melanocetus johnsonii) and the Netdevil (Borophryne apogon) are two similarly shaped fish that look like something out of an alternative universe.
One species, the (Lophius piscatorius) is known for its ugly, alien-like appearance and intimidating presence. It has a large head with an oversized mouth, filled with long fang-like teeth. Its eyes are large and protruding, giving it a menacing look.
Its body is dark brown in colour, covered with small bumps and protrusions. It has three long filaments on its head, which give it the appearance of having antennae. These are used to lure prey close enough for them to be eaten.
Ancistrus – Type Species (Hypostomus cirrhosus)
The Ancistrus are a genus of armoured catfish found in freshwater South American rivers. They generally have a wide and flattened head, covered with large, fleshy tentacles and bony plates called “plates of armour”. Its skin is usually brown with black markings, and its eyes are small and beady.
Ancistrus are known for their unusual appearance, with some species having fleshy tentacles that look like horns or spikes on their heads. These can be used to scare off predators but also give them an unusually ugly look that makes them stand out in the fish world. They have small barbels around the mouth, which they use to find food, and large fan-like fins that help them swim.
Despite their unattractive looks, Ancistrus are popular in the aquarium trade due to their hardy nature and unique appearance. They can live for up to 10 years if cared for properly and make interesting additions to home aquariums.
Red-lipped Batfish (Ogcocephalus darwini)
The Red-lipped Batfish (Ogcocephalus darwini) is an incredibly unique and ugly species of deep-sea fish found in the Galapagos Islands. It has a flat, round body, with a wide head and two antennae-like fins on its forehead that give it the resemblance of a bat. Its eyes are large and bulging, and its mouth is wide with two fleshy lobes that look like lips.
The most notable feature of the Red-lipped Batfish is its bright red lip, hence its name. It also has a prominent chin barbels and pectoral fins that help it move around the ocean. It is a poor swimmer and prefers to shuffle along the ocean floor, using its pectoral fin like legs.
Ambon Scorpionfish (Scorpaenopsis diabolus)
The Ambon Scorpionfish (Scorpaenopsis diabolus) is an incredibly ugly fish that inhabits the depths of the Indian and Pacific Oceans. It has a flat, wide head with large eyes, giving it an almost creepy look. Its body is covered in spines, giving it a rough texture, and its colouration ranges from reddish brown to yellowish green. You could almost dismiss this fish as a piece of coral or weed, until you see it move.
The Ambon Scorpionfish is known for its venomous spines, which it uses to defend itself and capture prey. These spines are arranged in several sets on its head and body that can inflict a painful sting if touched. Its unusual mouth also contains two sets of menacing fang-like teeth that are used for grasping and crushing prey.
Lampreys (Petromyzon marinus)
The Lamprey has a long, eel-like body and a mouth full of sharp triangular teeth. Lampreys are primitive jawless fish that live mainly in fresh and coastal waters around the world. They are one of the most ancient species of fish still surviving today, and can be identified by their unique lamprey mouths. They look like something you would expect to see in a science fiction epic, like Dune or Tremors.
They lack scales, possessing instead an unprotected slimy skin covered with mucus-filled pores, giving them a lumpy texture. The Lamprey’s mouth is its most striking feature, however. Its teeth hang down from the upper and lower jaws like a row of sharp claws, making it look rather gruesome.
Lampreys are carnivorous predators that hunt for food either by attaching themselves to the side of a fish or other creature, and then sucking blood from them.
Ocean Sunfish – (Mola mola)
The Ocean Sunfish (Mola mola) is one of the most bizarre looking fish in the world. It has the kind of face you could quite easily imagine ruining a divers pic with a photo bomb. It has a wide, flat body and its fins are greatly reduced from other fish species, giving it a unique look. In fact, its scientific name Mola mola literally means “millstone” in Latin, due to its flat, circular shape.
The Ocean Sunfish is the heaviest bony fish in the world, weighing up to 1,000 kg (2,200 lbs). Its large size and lack of body shape has earned it the nickname “swimming head”. It usually has a greyish colour with black spots on its sides.
Goblin Shark – (Mitsukurina owstoni)
The Goblin Shark (Mitsukurina owstoni) is an incredibly peculiar looking creature. It has a long, flattened snout with saw-like teeth and its skin can range from pink to light brown. The most noticeable characteristic of the goblin shark, however, is its long retractable jaw that it uses to catch prey.
The Goblin Shark is a deep-sea shark species and can be found at depths of up to 900 meters (3000 feet). It has an overall sluggish swimming style which contributes to its ugly appearance. The Goblin Shark is thought to have evolved from ancient sharks such as the Cretoxyrhina, which lived around 100 million years ago.
Stargazers – (Uranoscopidae)
The Uranoscopidae, commonly known as the stargazers, are a family of fish that live in tropical and temperate oceans all around the world. These peculiar fish have flattened bodies and thick heads covered with bony plates, giving them an almost alien-like appearance. The most striking feature of the Uranoscopidae is the large eyes, which are located on the top of their heads.
These fish bury themselves in the sand or mud with only their eyes exposed and lie in wait for unsuspecting prey to pass by.
Monkfish (Lophius piscatorius)
The Monkfish (Lophius piscatorius) is a species of anglerfish that inhabits the North Atlantic Ocean, from Cape Cod to Greenland. It can also be found in the Mediterranean and Black Seas. This peculiar fish has a long eel-like body and an incredibly large head, giving it a notably ugly appearance.
The Monkfish has a fearsome reputation as an ambush predator, using its large mouth to capture passing prey such as small fish and squid. Its long teeth are extremely sharp and ensure that its prey has no chance of escaping the clutches of this ugly fish.
Well, that sure was a list of some very ugly, peculiar and alien-like fish. We hope we haven’t given you nightmares or put you off getting in the water!
While this list isn’t exhaustive, it gives you a good idea of the diverse and often gruesome or unfamiliar features that many fish can have.